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Post-doc for pharma career path: Clinical or Basic lab?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:12 pm
by M.R.P
I am a PhD in immunology (from a big-name basic science lab) and am choosing a postdoc lab. Although I haven\'t totally written off an academic path, I see my career taking more of an industry route. For a variety of personal situations, I must remain in my midwestern, non-hub city for the next few years (though certainly NOT forever, meaning I will be able to cast a wide net for a job search). I did spene several months networking and talking with the industry that is here (not a hub, but there is a fair amount). I had great feedback and promising leads, which unfortunately didn\'t pan out. So I have decided to do a 2-3 year postdoc and have found 3 labs that I like (all have given me offers and have funding so these aren\'t issues).

Lab 1: Highly translational cancer research (ie active clinical trials. Basic science side is still developing and becoming stronger. PI is young, talented, and very motivated up&comer.
-Pros: Translational aspect and having a chance to develop treatments and maybe see them in humans. Seems like this experience would be highly advantageous to drug development careers. I would be very involved in the intellectual direction of the lab.
-Cons: I would be the only PhD in a lab of mainly MD surgery fellows (many of which have very little research experience, so there is a steep learning curve). Publications are in low impact specialty journals. Actual research is not-as \'cutting edge\' as I am used to.

Lab 2: Basic science lab with focus on Immunology/Cancer. Fairly big name PI with publications typically in very high impact journals.
-Pros: PI has history of placing his postdocs in great jobs (although mainly academic). Interesting work, likelihood of good publications is very high. Very cutting edge techniques.
-Cons: Most similar to the techniques/research/environment of my graduate work.

Lab 3: Basic science lab with focus on cancer metastasis to Bone. Not directly immunology, but highly applicable. Young vibrant PI.
-Pros: diversified from my current knowledge/field. Would learn new techniques, etc. Slight translational aspect. Bone biology is a \'hot\' topic in drug development (osteoporosis, arthritis, etc.) is addition to cancer aspect.
-Cons: Is it too far away from straight immunology (which I do love)? I don\'t really want to \'change fields\' per say.

Overall, my goal is to use my post-doc to make myself the most marketable candidate possible, most likely for pharma positions.

I am torn between/confused about which is more beneficial... direct drug development experience in a \'mid-level\' scientific environment (lab #1) or the opportunity to get high profile papers (lab #2/3). I also wonder if going to the translational lab will essentially \'close\' the academic path door for me (closing any door still sounds scary to me since I\'m not sure exactly what I want to do). I don\'t think any of the labs would be \"bad\" choices, but I wonder which is the \"best choice\"

I\'ll take any advice anyone can offer. Otherwise, I will probably make my decision with the help of a large bottle of wine!